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IReV Portal Glitches And Significant Electoral Upsets
Published Mar 02, 2023 IN Opinion,
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RESULTS of the presidential and national assembly elections which were held last Saturday in over 176,000 polling units nationwide are being released and certified by the Independent National Electoral Com­mission (INEC). Two major outcomes have dominated and animated discussions across all media: major electoral upsets and the furore over the failure of instant electronic transmission of results.

In a highly anticipated presidential poll, the expectation was that INEC will deliver a free, fair and credible exercise, especially when we remember the standard set in the Ekiti and Osun states off-season elections where the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC results viewing portal (IReV) were deployed.

But when it came to scaling up the same technology plat­forms for the national election in 774 local council areas, it would seem that INEC was not fully ready after all the assurances the commission provided.

In an effort to strengthen the nation’s electoral system, INEC had promised to improve the functionality of BVAS and IReV.

The difficult part last weekend was that many voters stayed up as late as past midnight to cast their votes. This was not what Nigerians bargained for. Clearly, there were poor logistics management issues because, in many polling units, INEC officials came late.

Whereas BVAS used for accreditation was largely suc­cessful, the collation of results which is a critical aspect of the electoral process was messed up because of electronic transmission glitches that rendered IReV portal inacces­sible.

INEC should have addressed the media and other stake­holders including election observers immediately to ex­plain what was going on with IReV. By the time a statement was released by Festus Okoye, national commissioner and chairman of the information and voter education commit­tee of INEC, it was too late and the damage had been done.

This should be a lesson in crisis communication manage­ment for INEC. A proactive public relations strategy builds trust and confidence.

Apart from the failure to communicate IReV challenges on time, there are allegations that some INEC staff were heav­ily compromised and bluntly refused to transmit results electronically. I am confident INEC will order investigations into such allegations.

INEC insists that technical glitches, and not sabotage, were the major challenges. Nonetheless, to ask for outright cancellation of the presidential election is far-fetched and does not make any sense. There are four major parties in the general election but only one party can produce the president-elect. We should be patient.

The final results have not been declared but we are watching the shameful behaviour of some desperate poli­ticians at the collation centre in Abuja. Must elections in Nigeria be a do-or-die affair?

Where there are gaps in the conduct of the elections, it is expected that INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, will respond accordingly. We have international observers and civil society organisations that are monitor­ing the elections to ensure that the process and outcomes are transparent.

There’s no way INEC is going to force a sham electoral exercise on Nigerians or ask us to accept fake results that can be challenged successfully. My view is that it is too early to question the legitimacy of the process or the results that have been announced so far.

These results are collated at the polling units, and then further aggregated at the ward level and local government councils. The vote tally for all the councils in each state is signed by all the party agents before they are announced on live television and thereafter sent to Abuja.

In a widely circulated statement by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, he expressed his disappointment with the conduct of the presidential election. I am not surprised he made damaging allegations about “blood money” used to compromise the integrity of the elections.

However, what is shocking is that Baba Iyabo said that if INEC does not listen and act on his wise counsel, Nigeria will burn to ashes. These were not his exact words but I took the liberty to paraphrase what he wrote. He actually threatened fire and brimstone. Why should the country that he presided over twice disintegrate?

That was an unnecessary alarm coming from an elder statesman with a highly respected voice at home and abroad. We can do without such scare-mongering at this time – it is like pouring more petrol into a raging fire.

I am not too sure that Chief Obasanjo who presided over an election that was later described as the worst in Nigeria’s history would have raised a similar alarm if Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party whom he en­dorsed, was certain to become the president-elect.

By the way, it appears that Chief Obasanjo has forgotten too soon that he wanted a third term, a misbegotten gambit which he initiated but crashed like a pack of cards when his two-term constitutional limit was about to expire.

Just to be clear, I do not have anything against Peter Obi. If anything, he should be praised for his disruptive influence in Nigeria’s political ecosystem and the general election, effectively creating a third force that threatened to sink the two dominant parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic (PDP) – in ways we have never seen before.

As we continue to improve our democratic experience, it will no longer be business as usual. If indeed Peter Obi is not a dominant third force, how did we record the shocking defeats by politicians who keep recycling themselves?

How do we also explain the upset in Lagos politics where Peter Obi’s Labour Party proved political pundits wrong by scoring the highest number of votes in the Lagos state presidential poll, beating Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu by more than 10,000 votes in the traditional stronghold of APC?

Apart from Lagos state, Labour Party, under Peter Obi’s hurricane-like influence, successfully created a bandwagon effect that led to victories in Delta, Anambra, Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi, Abia, Plateau and Nasarawa states based on the results released so far.

It is the only explanation that we can ascribe to the upsets recorded in the senatorial and House of Representatives elections where many so-called political heavyweights fell by the wayside.

Ben Ayade, governor of Cross River State; Ifeanyi Ug­wanyi, the governor of Enugu state and Samuel Ortom, the governor of Benue state had their eyes on the 10th senate but they lost to the opposition.

Would you ever have believed that these high-ranking governors would lose an election in Nigeria? Students of political science should interrogate this matter further.

Simon Lalong, the APC governor of Plateau state and director general of the APC presidential campaign council, also lost his senatorial bid.

Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu, the national chairman of APC, could also not deliver his Nasarawa west senatorial district to his party. The SDP candidate won the election.

We must understand that the beauty of democracy is the freedom to choose and vote for your preferred candi­date but we have seen situations where some community and religious leaders blackmail their followers to vote for specific candidates.

If Labour Party can win some states in the presidential poll because the party outperformed others by recording the highest number of votes, what is wrong with APC, PDP and NNPP also winning states in their respective traditional strongholds?

I see nothing wrong with that. In fact, PDP winning Kat­sina, an APC territory and President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state, also came as a surprise but it is good for our democracy because it showed that the will of the people prevailed.

PDP also took Osun, Bayelsa, Yobe, and Adamawa states while APC won in Oyo, Ekiti, Kwara, Jigawa, Ogun and Ondo states as of Monday night. NNPP beat APC in Kano state where Alhaji Abdullahi Umar Ganduje is the incum­bent APC governor and arch-political rival of Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso, the presidential candidate of NNPP.

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